Should I make a pre-auction offer on a property?

We examine how and when jumping the auction queue can work in your favour.

icon of a hammer When you’ve found the perfect property, the prospect of competing against other buyers at auction can be pretty intimidating. It can be tempting to try to avoid auction altogether with a pre-auction offer. This isn’t always a bad idea, but it’s imperative to first learn when, why and how you should make an offer prior to auction.

Know why they might say yes

Auctions are an incredibly popular way to sell homes in Australia. According to realestate.com.au, 20% of homes from September 2014 to September 2015 sold via auction. In capital cities this number was even higher, with around 30% of Sydney and Melbourne homes selling at auction.

It’s easy to see why vendors might want to take their chances at auction. After all, there’s no upper limit to what one could receive at auction, and the competitive bidding environment can serve to push prices skyward.

Likewise, there are plenty of reasons why a vendor might want to avoid auction. Recent auction results could make vendors a bit more wary about trying their chances. Auction clearance rates have been trending lower over recent weeks. According to CoreLogic, the combined capital city auction clearance rate for the week ending 24 September 2017 was 70.7%, down from 75.4% for the same week in 2016.

Auctions can be expensive endeavours. When taking into account marketing and the services of an auctioneer, Openagent.com.au estimates the expense of auctioning a $700,000 home could be up to $7,000. That’s a big gamble in a market where clearance rates are falling.

Time can be another factor that makes vendors rethink going to auction. Some vendors may have already found another property, and may be keen to sell their old property as quickly as possible. In a situation like this, a four-week marketing campaign for an auction can seem like an eternity.

If you understand some of the factors that could motivate vendors to sell prior to auction, you can make an informed assessment of the market and determine whether it’s likely vendors are looking to avoid auction.

Do the research

Before you make an offer on a property, make sure you know enough about its value to put yourself in serious contention.

Any property going to auction will have a rough idea, even before the campaign begins, of a price guide. While some vendors and agents can be a bit cagey on the question, you can usually get an idea of the suggested price if you ask directly.

But this is far from the only factor determining the price a property is likely to attract. Put in the time to research what price the property is likely to fetch at auction.

Where (and how) to find accurate property prices)

You can usually get a rough idea of the median price for similar properties by searching the property’s address on Domain or realestate.com.au. To get an even better idea, look at recent sales of similar properties. You’ll need to put some time in doing research to find truly comparable properties. Remember, not all two-bedroom houses are created equal, so pay attention to the condition, floor space, land space and amenities of the other sales in the area.

Show genuine interest

Demonstrate to the vendor and their agent that you’re interested in the property. You might want to attend several of the open inspections to begin to build a rapport with the agent and show you’re serious about the property.

When you do attend inspections, ask questions. Get as many specifics as you can about the house itself, and about the vendor, their goals and their expectations. Remember, the agent works for the vendor so they’re not likely to give away any sensitive information. However, you do want to demonstrate a genuine interest in understanding what the vendor is looking for and what offers they might be likely to consider.

You can also show you’re serious by taking some additional steps to research the property. Ask the agent for the contract of sale, and ask if there’s a building and pest inspection report you can purchase. Taking steps like this can set you apart from the rest of the crowd.

Make an offer they can’t refuse

It may seem counterintuitive, but when you make a pre-auction offer you need to go in bold and aggressive. In most business negotiations, you might want to hold your cards close and hesitate to give too much away. This strategy is unlikely to work when you’re trying to convince a vendor to sell before auction.

Make the vendor an offer near the upper limit of what you’re willing to pay. Remember, you’re trying to convince them that it’s worth avoiding auction to take your offer. You’re not going to accomplish that with a lowball price.

In addition to offering an enticing price, try to offer enticing terms as well. You can offer a short settlement time, a bigger deposit or even waive the cooling-off period. You want to offer the vendor better terms than they can expect at auction.

Be prepared

If your offer is accepted, you need to be organised and ready to make good on it.

This means you’ll need to have your deposit cheque ready to deliver to the vendor as soon as your offer is accepted. It also means you’ll want to have finance in order for you to move to settlement in a reasonable timeframe. It’s worth getting home loan pre-approval before you make an offer.

You also need to be ready to exchange contracts quickly. It could be worth having a solicitor look over the contract of sale before you put in your offer. Remember that until contracts are exchanged, there’s nothing stopping the vendor from entertaining other offers.

Be sure it’s the best strategy

The major caveat to all of the above is to be certain that making an offer prior to auction is a strategy you’re comfortable with. There’s every possibility that a pre-auction offer will see you paying more for a property than if you had gone to auction.

If your offer is rejected, you run the risk of merely adjusting the vendor’s price expectations upwards. This means the vendor and their agent can now tell any other potential buyers that they’ve had interest above the original price guide. Your offer now becomes the floor for everyone else.

If you do choose to make an offer prior to auction, you should do so because market conditions seem to favour buyers, and you think you can secure the property at a reasonable price without competing with others at auction. A pre-auction offer might not always be the right strategy, but if you know what you’re willing to pay and you want to take other buyers out of the running, it could be worth the risk.

Compare some of the market's best home loans below

Rates last updated May 26th, 2018
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Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment Short Description
3.69%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Refinance to a UBank loan and you could get $1,000 in your USaver account (offer conditions apply). Enjoy flexible repayments, a redraw facility and the ability to split your loan. Plus, pay no application or ongoing fees.
3.64%
3.67%
$0
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80%
A mortgage with a competitive variable rate, limited fees and plenty of flexibility.
3.69%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Pay no application or ongoing fees and get a flexible loan with the ability to split up to 6 times.
3.64%
4.03%
$0
$395 p.a.
80%
New borrowers or refinancers from another lender get a discounted rate with this package loan.
3.54%
3.58%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Eligible borrowers can get $900 cashback on this loan with a 100% offset account and a redraw facility.
3.64%
3.84%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Enjoy all the benefits of the Basic Home Loan and take advantage of an offset account.
3.68%
3.83%
$0
$10 monthly ($120 p.a.)
80%
Get a 100% offset account to save on interest charges, and pay no application fee.
3.69%
3.71%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A low rate variable home loan offer with no monthly fees or application fee charge.
3.96%
3.98%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
For a limited time, pay no application or settlement fees. You can also take advantage of a free redraw facility.
3.70%
4.13%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
Package your loan with an eligible credit card for discounts on rates and fees, and get a 100% offset account.
3.79%
3.79%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Pay no application and ongoing fees with Macquarie Bank Basic Home Loan.
3.52%
3.53%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Go from application to approval in as little as 20 minutes with a variable rate loan from this innovative online lender. Add a 100% offset account for $10 a month.
3.79%
4.06%
$0
$20 monthly ($240 p.a.)
80%
Add a Platinum Rewards Mastercard with this package loan and you could earn 150,000 Bendigo reward points (Victoria only, terms and conditions apply).
3.69%
4.06%
$0
$349 p.a.
90%
Package your loan with other AMP products and save on rates and fees.
3.77%
3.81%
$200
$0 p.a.
95%
A simplified mortgage with a low interest rate and a redraw facility.
3.68%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
This variable rate loan offers flexible repayments and a redraw facility. Available with a 5% deposit.
3.68%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Get one free online redraw per month and pay no ongoing fees. Application fees are waived for loans above $150,000.
3.87%
3.87%
$0
$10 monthly ($120 p.a.)
90%
Get Virgin Velocity Points at settlement, monthly and every three years, plus the option to make up to $10,000 a year in extra repayments.
3.59%
3.99%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Get interest rate discounts and waived fees on this package loan with a 100% offset account.
3.69%
3.74%
$600
$0 p.a.
80%
A competitive variable rate for borrowers with a 20% deposit or more. Guarantor option available.
3.69%
4.04%
$0
$350 p.a.
95%
A competitive rate with no application fee.
3.69%
4.11%
$0
$395 p.a.
80%
Save on interest with a 100% offset account and save on other ME products with this package loan.
3.65%
3.66%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
This special rate loan comes with no application or ongoing fees, and offers a flexible repayment schedule.
3.69%
3.94%
$0
$248 p.a.
70%
Get a sharp rate and a 100% offset account. Borrowers must have a 30% deposit.
3.62%
3.62%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Pay no application or ongoing fees and get access to a redraw facility and flexible repayment schedule. Refinance to a UBank loan and you could get $1,000 in your USaver account (offer conditions apply).
3.73%
3.73%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Get a 100% offset account and pay no application or ongoing fees on this special variable rate for owner-occupiers.
3.79%
3.83%
$600
$0 p.a.
80%
A low interest rate loan with limited fees and a redraw facility. Principal and interest repayments only.
3.78%
3.78%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Pay no application or ongoing fees and get access to a free redraw facility with this innovative online lender.
3.89%
3.89%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Investors with a 30% deposit can get this low rate property investment loan.
3.90%
4.78%
$600
$0 p.a.
95%
A competitive fixed rate mortgage with split facilities and extra repayments. You can get this loan with a 5% deposit.
3.99%
5.17%
$600
$0 p.a.
90%
Competitive rates for fixed for 3 years with redraw facility.
4.09%
4.12%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
Buy a home with just a 5% deposit and get flexible repayment options and a redraw facility.
3.59%
4.14%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
A one year fixed rate offer with no ongoing bank fees.
4.14%
4.14%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Investors pay no application or ongoing fees on this loan from an innovative online lender.
3.74%
4.01%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
A competitive 3 year fixed rate with no ongoing bank fees.
3.99%
4.62%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
Investors can enjoy flexible repayments and an easy application process with this pioneering online lender.
3.99%
4.86%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Access a fee-free 100% offset account and pay no application or ongoing fees.
3.89%
4.87%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Borrow up to 90% of the value of the property you're buying and pay no application or ongoing fees.
3.64%
3.64%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Get a discount for keeping your LVR at 70% or below with this innovative online lender.
3.85%
4.05%
$0
$350 p.a.
95%
This high LVR fixed rate loan allows you to borrow up to 95% of the value of the property you're buying.
4.09%
4.11%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
This variable rate loan keeps the features simple and fees low. This loan is offered by a 100% online lender.
3.99%
3.99%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Get a discounted, low-fee investor loan from a convenient online lender. 20% deposit required. Refinance to a UBank loan and you could get $1,000 in your USaver account (offer conditions apply).
3.85%
4.82%
$600
$35 monthly ($420 p.a.)
90%
Make up to $10,000 in extra repayments per year and take advantage of a flexible repayment schedule.
3.79%
3.80%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Keep your LVR at 70% or below and enjoy a special discounted rate. Also, pay no application or ongoing fees.
3.99%
4.03%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
Buy a home with just a 5% deposit and pay no application or ongoing fees.
3.89%
4.96%
$0
$395 p.a.
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Refinancers can get $1,500 cashback. Conditions apply. Package your home loan with a Qantas rewards earning Amplify credit card.
3.89%
4.97%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Get discounts on a range of Commonwealth Bank products and enjoy the option of fee-free extra repayments during the fixed term.
3.64%
3.65%
$0
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95%
Family pledge option available. Get a special discount off Bank of Melbourne's basic variable rate.

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Credit services for Aussie Select, Aussie IQ and Aussie Optimizer products are provided by AHL Investments Pty Ltd ACN 105 265 861 Australian Credit Licence 246786 ("Aussie"), and its appointed credit representatives. Credit for Aussie Select products is provided by Residential Mortgage Group Pty Ltd ACN 152 378 133 Australian Credit Licence 414133 (“RMG”). RMG is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 234945. Credit for Aussie Optimizer products is provided by Perpetual Limited ABN 86 000 431 827 (Lender). Credit for Aussie IQ is provided by Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 237502. Home loans issued by the Lender are serviced by Macquarie Securitisation Limited ABN 16 003 297 336, Australian Credit Licence 237863 (MSL).

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